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Great Britain Triumphant!
Thomas SHAW (c.1752-c.1830)
Overture to The Island of St Margueritte [5:32]
Thomas ATTWOOD (1765-1838)
Reflections of Marie Antoinette [4:11]
Stephen STORACE (1762-1796)
Lamentation of Marie Antoinette [5:08]
James HOOK (1746-1827)
Royal Orphans’ Dream [6:45]
Britons struck home [4:30]
The Glorious First of June [5:08]
Great Britain Triumphant [16:14]
William SHIELD (1748-1829)
Extracts from Harford Bridge [12:01]
Luffman ATTERBURY (1740-1796)
The Undaunted Britons [3:20]
Caroline Schiller, Stefanie True and Mária Zádori (sopranos); Zoltán Megyesi (tenor); Reid Spencer (baritone)
Capella Savaria/Mary Térey-Smith
rec. 24-27 September 2008; 3 July 2009, Don Bosco Concert Room, Salesian Institute, Szombathely, Hungary
texts included
CENTAUR CRC3073 [62:56]

Books and films about the wars between Britain and France after the French Revolution have appeared in enormous quantity, both in historical accounts and in fiction. Oddly, however, the music it inspired in Britain at the time has remained a virtual closed book, and whatever shortcomings this disc may have it is of immense interest in showing the nature of that music. It is still the case that British composers of this period tend to be regarded as being at best an inferior copy of their European contemporaries. After listening to this disc you will probably still be of that opinion. This music was however not intended to assume that kind of significance. Everything here was provided for public entertainment or domestic consumption and was written with these considerations above all in mind. Perhaps as a result of this many of the orchestral items here were published only for piano, with or without voice, and the original manuscript parts do not survive. In these cases the versions heard here have been reconstructed by the conductor in imaginative and convincing ways.
 
Two of the vocal items here are laments relating to the imprisonment and execution of Marie Antoinette. Although their composers were the pupil (Thomas Attwood) and friend (Stephen Storace) of Mozart neither rises above the routinely polite. Here, as throughout the disc, the singers’ diction is unclear, and I could make little sense of what was being sung without recourse to the booklet which includes the full texts.
 
Much more interesting are the patriotic items and in particular the extracts from James Hook’s Great Britain Triumphant. He was a good composer able to provide music which would make an instant appeal to the public with a variety of musical character. William Shield had similar gifts and it is good to add to his representation on disc beyond Rosina. His Hartford Bridge less overtly related to the political scene at the time but contains much charming music.
 
It would be hard to claim that any of the music here goes much beyond charm, conventional sentiment or equally conventional vigour. The texts seldom rise above the level of doggerel but are full of historical interest. It would be hard to claim much in the way of real musical or poetic substance here and the performances are worthy rather than inspired. However, for students of the period there is more than enough to make this an essential addition to their collections.  

John Sheppard

Experience Classicsonline